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Question
Posted by: Me | 2011/10/26

Husband lost his brother... how do I support him going forward?

Hi there Doc. My husband''s brother died unexpectedly this weekend and we are all completely shattered... he was only 32... 2 years older than my hubby. The family is obviously guilt stricken and I have been there for them day and night. I just want to know how I can best support my husband going forward, knowing that there will be various stages that he''s going to go through. What can I expect and how can I help him? Thanks...

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

OK, here's the first thing. THERE ARE NO STAGES anyone goes through. This is an ignorant message spread by naive and inexperienced shrinks and others, which can cause major problems.
"Stages" imply that there are a predictable series of ways in which one responds to grief ( or to learning you yourself may die ) ; and it is often misunderstood to suggest that you HAVE to go through them, or in some specific order ; or that you start with one, and move on, somehow finished with that one. And so on. None of it true.
There are, of course, different ways in which most of us react to the death of someone dear to us, especially when it is unexpected, and when the person seems so young. There is shock, grief of course, guilt at not having prevented it even though it was probably impossible to have prevented, and there is often anger - at the person for going away. at oneself for not getting over tjhis, maybe anger at God for allowing something so awful to happen, or at the doctors for not saving him. We all vary in these responses, and may return to a way we responded earlier, until one has finished the complex business of grief work.
One of the horrors of the "stages" model I have come across, is people who think you must use special methods to somehow shove a person through the "stages" and out the other end. Of course it doesn't work like that.
Let him know how much you love him and want to be supportive, and ask him to let you know frankly what he needs or wants. Sometimes a bereaved person, for instamce, wants to talk about the person they've lost, and this may be discouraged by others for the wrong reasons. If they want to talk, let them, and be prepared to listen - your listening is usually more valuable than anything you might say.
And when they don't feel like talking about it, let them be silent, and support that, too. Respond to whatever way he is responding at the time.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/10/26

OK, here's the first thing. THERE ARE NO STAGES anyone goes through. This is an ignorant message spread by naive and inexperienced shrinks and others, which can cause major problems.
"Stages" imply that there are a predictable series of ways in which one responds to grief ( or to learning you yourself may die ) ; and it is often misunderstood to suggest that you HAVE to go through them, or in some specific order ; or that you start with one, and move on, somehow finished with that one. And so on. None of it true.
There are, of course, different ways in which most of us react to the death of someone dear to us, especially when it is unexpected, and when the person seems so young. There is shock, grief of course, guilt at not having prevented it even though it was probably impossible to have prevented, and there is often anger - at the person for going away. at oneself for not getting over tjhis, maybe anger at God for allowing something so awful to happen, or at the doctors for not saving him. We all vary in these responses, and may return to a way we responded earlier, until one has finished the complex business of grief work.
One of the horrors of the "stages" model I have come across, is people who think you must use special methods to somehow shove a person through the "stages" and out the other end. Of course it doesn't work like that.
Let him know how much you love him and want to be supportive, and ask him to let you know frankly what he needs or wants. Sometimes a bereaved person, for instamce, wants to talk about the person they've lost, and this may be discouraged by others for the wrong reasons. If they want to talk, let them, and be prepared to listen - your listening is usually more valuable than anything you might say.
And when they don't feel like talking about it, let them be silent, and support that, too. Respond to whatever way he is responding at the time.

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